With the memory of being beaten by Kenai still in their minds, the Soldotna softball team did the only thing they could do. Return the favor.
The Stars ousted the Kardinals 16-4 in 3 1-2 innings in Northern Lights Conference action on a sunny and warm Thursday afternoon at Guy and Judy Hayes Field in Soldotna, three weeks after losing a close 10-9 game in Kenai.
“It was big for us in multiple ways, not only to get a win against Kenai but just play better than the first time,” said SoHi coach Kelli Knoebel. “It was big for us to get some momentum and get a ‘W’ under our belts. It’s been a while and it’s good for the team.”
SoHi bumped its season mark to 2-11 overall with the win, while Kenai dropped to 1-7 overall.
Kenai got the early jump on SoHi by scoring four runs in its first chance at the plate, but after three outs were recorded, SoHi took charge and never looked back.
“There’s nothing like winning, and a ‘W’ kind of solidifies that and I think it brings the team a little closer,” Knoebel said.
Soldotna’s Delaney Schneider earned the win in the pitching circle, starting slow but finishing strong with three straight scoreless innings. After starting with two walks, two hit batters and two hits in the opening inning, Schneider finished the final three innings with two hits, one walk and one strikeout. Knoebel said Schneider walked into the dugout after the first inning and immediately pushed the reset button to finish the job with three solid innings of work.
“I think she adjusted and was able to get out of her own head,” Knoebel said. “She went out and relaxed.”
Even with the loss, there was no question that Kenai has some tough athletes. If there was any consolation for the Kardinals, it was that three starters did not play due to illness, and two that did play — pitcher Cierra King and catcher Emily Koziczkowski — were dealing with sickness as well. King pitched three innings with eight hits, eight walks and one strikeout.
“They’re both battling illness, so it was hard to come out there and get with it,” said Kenai coach Mark King. “We made some good plays, but we were still wound a bit tight.”
King said the backup plan was bring up a few JV players in case his daughter Cierra and Koziczkowski needed relief, but the pair toughed it out.
“I told them, if you get to a point where you don’t think you can continue, we’ll pull you out,” King said. “But if you feel like battling … battle.”
Ellen Weaver, Addison Machen-Grey, Erin Cox and Drew Peterson had a hit apiece to lead Kenai at the plate.
Jazi Larrow and Ila Cobb both hit 2 for 3 to lead the SoHi offense, while Alyssa Corbin was 2 for 2 with three RBIs and Meghan Ussing was 1 for 2 with two RBIs and a double.
Schneider hit two Kenai batters and walked another to load the bases, which set up Koziczowski to come home on an error for Kenai’s first run of the day. Cox then hit a single that brought Alyssa Herr and Weaver in to score, and Peterson followed that up with a single that scored King.
In the bottom of the inning, however, Cobb sparked the Stars with a two-RBI single to shortstop that scored Larrow and Amber McDonald, closing the gap to 4-2. From there, the Stars scored five straight runs on a combination of errors, including four pitches getting behind catcher Koziczkowski.
After Larrow belted out a two-out single that brought Corbin across home plate, SoHi got out of the first inning with an 8-4 lead.
In the final three innings at the plate, Ussing hit a powerful double to center field that scored Cobb and Olivia Farrell, then advanced to third on a throwing error before reaching home on an error from Kenai’s third baseman. SoHi led 14-4 after two innings and added two runs in the third to seal the win.
Knoebel said the road-weary Stars have traveled about 2,500 miles in the last two weeks, so Thursday’s contest gave her confidence that they could finish out the year with some momentum.
“We’ve played a lot of good competition, so it was nice in terms of us coming back and being able to build on everything we’ve learned,” Knoebel said. “That was the first time in a while that we were able to get some runs, and then build on it.”
The Kards host Bartlett today at 4 and 6 p.m., while the Stars host the Golden Bears on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Homer softball sweeps Colony
The Mariners continued their sizzling season with a doubleheader sweep of the Colony Knights on Thursday at Colony. Homer won the first game 15-3 and the second 11-4. The wins pushed Homer to a 10-3 overall season record.
In the first game, Kyla Pitzman had three RBIs and two hits for Homer, while Riley Wells and Pam Jantzi added two RBIs apiece. Maggie LaRue and Pitzman had two hits.
McKi Needham pitched five innings and gave up three runs on six hits.
In the second game, LaRue and Needham led the way with three hits, while Pam Jantzi pitched five innings and allowed four runs on six hits.